J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2012-201301
  • Research report

The association between recreational parks, facilities and childhood obesity: a cross-sectional study of the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health

  1. Amanda E Tanner3
  1. 1Department of Public Health Sciences, UNC Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Georgia Southern University, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Statesboro, Georgia, USA
  3. 3Department of Public Health Education, UNC Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dayna S Alexander, Georgia Southern University, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, 1332 Southern Drive, Hendricks Hall, Statesboro, GA 30458, USA; dayna_s_alexander{at}
  • Received 26 March 2012
  • Revised 10 December 2012
  • Accepted 20 December 2012
  • Published Online First 30 January 2013


Background Despite the rising childhood obesity rates, few studies have examined the association between access to recreational parks and facilities and obesity.

Methods A cross-sectional study was performed among 42 278 US children who participated in the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health. Access to parks and recreational facilities was self-reported by parents, and body mass index was calculated from parents’ self-report of the child's height and weight. Logistic regression was used to obtain ORs and 95% CIs. Since obesity was not a rare occurrence, an OR correction method was used to provide a more reliable estimate of the prevalence ratio (PR).

Results Children with access to parks and facilities had decreased prevalence of obesity as compared to children without access (PR=0.79, 95% CI 0.69 to 0.91). After adjustment for covariates, the magnitude of the association remained unchanged; however, results were no longer statistically significant (PR=0.77, 95% CI 0.55 to 1.07). Race/ethnicity was an effect modifier of the access–obesity relationship (p<0.0001). Among Non-Hispanic White children, there was no strong association (PR=0.89, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.23). However, among Non-Hispanic Black children, those who had access to recreational parks and facilities had 0.40 times the prevalence of obesity as compared to those without access, and this result was statistically significant (95% CI 0.17 to 0.90).

Conclusions This research highlights potential health disparities in childhood obesity due to limited access to recreational parks and facilities. Additional studies are needed to further investigate this association. If confirmed, providing safe, accessible parks and facilities may be one way to combat childhood obesity, particularly among minority children.

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